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EDITOR'S NOTEBOOK:How a phony letter got into print

October 20, 2006|By Cindy Frazier

A letter to the editor published in the Oct. 6 Coastline Pilot has raised many questions — and caused us no little embarrassment here at the paper.

The letter, signed by "George Dodgson" is a fake, and worse.

On the surface, it was written to convey support for City Council candidates Verna Rollinger and Toni Iseman, both of whom are identified with Village Laguna.

The letter-writer claims that, if Iseman and Rollinger are elected, Village Laguna would control the city and stop "church expansion" — and this would be a good thing.

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The tone of the letter and the anti-church sentiments expressed sent off alarm bells in the minds of many in the community. It appears to align the two candidates, and Village Laguna, squarely against the churches in town — a position that we doubt any serious candidate would want to take.

After the letter was published, we were contacted by Village Laguna supporters and also those in the opposite political camp.

Both camps expressed disbelief over the letter and dismay at what the letter conveyed.

Both camps were convinced the letter was a fake, and that it was intended to disparage, not support, Village Laguna and the candidates mentioned.

One person — not a Village Laguna proponent — called the letter "invidious," and insisted it was a clever way to besmirch the candidates. (Dictionary.com defines "invidious" as "calculated to create ill will or resentment or give offense; hateful.")

From what we have learned so far, it appears the letter is a fake, whatever its purpose or intent. It may be a political prank or, as some suspect, a clever plant.

It's especially galling to many that this would happen during an election season in which all the candidates have pledged to "keep it clean" and not sling mud.

We are now being asked how we could publish such a letter, so here's our answer.

The letter appeared genuine and seemed to comply with our basic requirements for a home address and a phone number. We ask for these items in case a question comes up regarding a letter and to verify the origin of a letter. Usually, that's a simple process and one that hasn't betrayed us until now.

We have a policy of not accepting letters that do not comply with these requirements, and in some cases have found it necessary to contact the letter-writer before the letter could be published, especially if it is someone we have not heard from before.

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